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CNN Live Event/Special

Pope Francis Visits Canada On Penitential Pilgrimage; Pope Francis Apologizes To Canada's Indigenous Communities; Interview With Former Member, U.S. Commission On International Religious Freedom, Thomas Reese. Aired 1-1:37p ET

Aired July 25, 2022 - 13:00   ET



JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: But papal statements of regret, papal mea culpas.

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: John Allen, our senior Vatican analyst, always good to get you with us.

I want to go back to Paula Newton from -- I think we might have lost Paula.

John, can I just ask you about the sort of apologizing for abuse that has lasted generations, sexual abuse, physical abuse, spiritual abuse? We have spoken in the past about what comes next and the action that's needed. It's not just an apology.

People in these communities that have dealt with such traumatic experiences want more than just an apology. What comes next?

ALLEN: Well, Lynda, in some ways, this trip reminds me of when Pope John Paul II went to Israel and Palestine in 2000. He went to the Western wall and apologized for centuries of Christian antisemitism that helped shape the basis in some ways for the Holocaust.

That apology was proudly moving. I mean, people wept when it happened. But then there was the question, OK, what comes next? And in Catholic- Jewish dialogue, ever since there's been that question about, has the church adequately done justice for the sins of the past? Has it adequately turned over a new leaf?

Those questions will happen here too. I think they will focus around whether the church cooperates aggressively in documentary efforts to identify who was buried in these unmarked graves to be able to bring closure to those families, whether the church is foursquare in its commitment to financial reparations, whether it participates in efforts in Canada to go to bolster support and foster these indigenous cultures.

Those are the kinds of questions that will be asked. I think people will say that the apologies that Pope Francis is going to deliver are historically significant. How significant, however, will depend on what comes next. And that, Lynda, is not a question we're going to be able to answer today. KINKADE: And, John, the Catholic Church is such an enormous


One thing we often hear from survivors when it comes to a papal apology is some sort of understanding that this won't happen again in the future, or that this isn't currently happening anywhere else in the world. It's one of those things that it's pretty hard to give some sort of guarantee, as much as the Catholic Church hopes and prayers that this is in the past.

ALLEN: Well, I mean, we certainly know that the abuses that took place in the residential school system in Canada aren't happening now, and are deeply unlikely to happen again.

I think there probably is no place in the world where the Catholic Church is currently participating actively in an effort to forcibly remove children from indigenous families and try to eradicate their culture.

That said, if the question is being asked, can the Catholic Church issue an ironclad guarantee that no one anywhere in the world today is being accused -- is being abused by a representative of the church, no, of course, they can't deliver that kind of guarantee, which is why eternal vigilance is the price of change.

I think Pope Francis is committed to a program of reform. His presence in Canada today is indicative of that. But to what extent that makes a real difference around the world in terms of these anti-abuse efforts, that's a question that is going to have to be answered in the doing.

And it won't be answered today. It will be answered in the weeks, months and years to come, Lynda.

KINKADE: Thanks to you, John.

If you can just stand by for us, I want to bring back Delia Gallagher, who is our Vatican correspondent, who is currently traveling with the pope, and joins us on the phone as we await the pope's remarks.

Delia, this apology is not just over decades. This is over generations that we're expecting the pope to apologize for abuse that started back in the 1880s and for much of the 20th century and happened against hundreds of thousands, over 150,000 children from indigenous communities.

Just explain the significance of today. What is the pope and his team saying to you, as you have made this journey with him through Canada?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is really a historic moment that we're witnessing, Lynda, because the question of apology, the pope has apologized.

And, indeed, Benedict XVI also asked for forgiveness, some people said it wasn't a strict apology, but from the Vatican. And one of the requests of the indigenous people and indeed of the government of Canada was that the pope come here, come to Canada, and be on this soil and be with these people.


And that turned out to also be one of the hopes of Pope Francis. Now, of course, the problem was he has a terrible knee issue. And so we weren't even sure if he was going to be able to make this trip. If you remember, just three weeks ago, he had to cancel a trip to Africa because his knee issue.

On the plane, he was standing and walking up and down with the use of a cane. So he can obviously have some limited mobility, but he has been traveling around here in a wheelchair. He did not come down the steps of the airplane, for example. He was stair-lifted down.

But that aside, it's very significant that the pope really wanted to make this trip. There was an indigenous group at the Vatican at the end of March, early April that came to be with the pope, and he apologized again there to them, but promised that he would come to Canada.

And that's what we're seeing today, the importance for the indigenous people, also the importance for Pope Francis. He recognizes that the land where the people live, he has said it many times before in different contexts, is extremely important.

If you only consider his whole encyclical of (INAUDIBLE) where he's talking about the care for the earth. And I think that that's very tied into his visit here, not only to apologize for the abuses that happened with the residential schools, but to draw attention to indigenous communities here and around the world in terms of their closeness to the earth.

They are people who revere the earth, and try to draw other people's attention to the fact that we need to also revitalize these communities and appreciate these communities. So you also have that kind of underlying message. Indeed, the apology is the first and most important thing, but the apology on these grounds makes it even more powerful.

I have to say that we have (AUDIO GAP) people that are here. We have survivors here. This place is one -- used to be the site of one of the largest residential schools in Canada. And they have come here to see the pope, but they have been giving their testimony, very powerful testimony.

There are some survivors here. And they have spoken about a policy. They have said, yes, we have heard apologies. We are happy to hear another policy from the pope on our soil, but apologies aren't any good without action. And they have some actionable steps, such as financial reparations, such as opening archives in order to understand exactly what the facts are behind the residential schools and what happened to the children who didn't return.

So they have some actual steps that they're also hoping that the pope will support. We will see what he says about that. But there's a sense that an apology doesn't take away the trauma. They have been talking a lot about intergenerational trauma, about the traumas that the survivors obviously themselves have suffered, and how they have to deal with that themselves, but an appreciation that there is support from the pope, from the Catholic Church for this journey, as they're calling.

It's the theme of this whole event, is walking together. So there's a recognition that it's not just ending with an apology. In fact, it's only sort of beginning, as I said, to recognize the contributions of indigenous communities here and throughout the world, and to try to support them in their healing and reconciliation.

So they are looking for an apology. But they have already sort of spoken about that. When the pope apologized, one of them was saying, well, we can sense if it's a sincere apology. But we also want the actionable steps. And we also recognize that it doesn't take away the trauma, but an appreciation of a historical moment.

This is really something they themselves wanted, to have a pope here on their soil, and that's what we're seeing this morning -- Lynda.

KINKADE: And, Delia, you mentioned that survivors there are listening and giving testimony.

Also, current and former chiefs from the indigenous community are speaking, performing. And we saw images just moments ago of the prime minister, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

But we do know, as far as the schools go, the residential schools, there are 130 residential schools impacted by this abuse.

The pope is now speaking.

Let's listen in.

POPE FRANCIS, LEADER OF CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): Madam Governor General, Mr. Prime Minister, dear indigenous peoples of Maskwacis and of this land of Canada, dear brothers and sisters, I have been waiting to come here and be with you.


Here, from this place associated with painful memories, I would like to begin what I consider a pilgrimage, a penitential pilgrimage. I have come to your native lands to tell you in person of my sorrow, to implore God's forgiveness, healing and reconciliation, to express my closeness and to pray with you and for you.

I recall the meetings we had in Rome four months ago. At that time, I was given two pairs of moccasins as a sign of the suffering endured by indigenous children, especially those who, unfortunately, never came back home from the residential schools.

I was asked to return the moccasins when I came to Canada. I brought them. And I will do so at the end of these few words, in which I would like to reflect on this symbol, which, over the past few months, has kept alive my sense of sorrow, indignation and shame. The memory of those children is indeed painful. It urges us to work to

ensure that every child is treated with love, honor, and respect. At the same time, those moccasins also speak to us of a path to follow, a journey that we desire to make together.

We want to walk together, to pray together and to work together so that the sufferings of the past can lead to a future of justice, healing and reconciliation.


That is why the first part of my pilgrimage among you takes place in this region, which, from time immemorial, has seen the presence of indigenous peoples. These are lands that speak to us. They enable us to remember, to remember brothers and sisters.

You have lived on these lands for thousands of years, following ways of life that respect the earth, which you received as a legacy from past generations, and are keeping for those yet to come. You have treated it as a sign of the creator to be shared with others and to be cherished in harmony with all that exists in profound fellowship with all living beings.

In this way, you learn to foster a sense of family and community and to build solid bonds between generations, honoring your elders and caring for your little ones, a treasury of some customs and teachings centered on concern for others, truthfulness, courage and respect, humility, honesty, and practical wisdom.

Yet, if these -- if those were the first steps taken in these lands, the path of remembrance leads us, sadly, to those that followed. The place where we are gathered renews within me the deep sense of pain and remorse that I have felt in these past months.

I think back on the tragic situations that so many of you, your families and your communities have known, of what you shared with me about the suffering you endured in the residential schools. These are traumas that are in some way reawakened whenever the subject comes up.

I realize too that our meeting today can bring back old memories and hurts and that many of you may feel uncomfortable even as I speak. Yet it is right to remember, because forgetfulness leads to indifference. And, as has been said, the opposite of love is not hatred. It's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death. It's indifference.

To remember the devastating experiences that took place in the residential schools hurts, angers, causes pain, and yet it is necessary.


It is necessary to remember how the policies of assimilation and enfranchisement, which also included the residential school system, were devastating for the peoples of these lands. When the European colonists first arrived here, there was a great opportunity to bring about a fruitful encounter between cultures, traditions, and forms of spirituality.

Yet, for the most part, that did not happen. Again, I think back on the stories you told, how the policies of assimilation ended up systematically marginalizing the indigenous peoples, how also, through the system of residential schools, your languages and cultures were denigrated and suppressed, how children suffered physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse, how they were taken away from their homes at a young age, and how that indelibly affected relationships between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren.

I thank you for making me appreciate this, for telling me about the heavy burdens that you still bear, for sharing with me these bitter memories.

Today, I am here in this land that, along with its ancient memories, preserves the scars of still open wounds. I am here because the first step of my penitential pilgrimage among you is that of again asking forgiveness, of telling you once more that I am deeply sorry, sorry...



POPE FRANCIS (through translator): ... sorry for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed indigenous peoples.

I am sorry. I ask forgiveness.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): I ask forgiveness in particular for the ways in which many members of the church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools.

Although Christian charity was not absent, and there were many outstanding instances of devotion and care for children, the overall effects of the policies linked to the residential schools were catastrophic.

What our Christian faith tells us is that this was a disastrous error, incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is painful to think of how the firm soil of values, language and culture that made up the authentic identity of your peoples was eroded and that you have continued to pay the price for this.

In the face of this deplorable evil, the church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the sins of her children. I myself wish to reaffirm this with shame and unambiguously.

I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the indigenous peoples.


KINKADE: You have just been listening to Pope Francis in Canada on what he calls a trip of penance, apologizing to the indigenous community for decades of abuse of indigenous children in residential schools and the church's role in that abuse.

CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher is standing by. She is traveling with the pope and joins us now on the phone.

Delia, the pope said: "Today, I'm here in this land that, along with its ancient memories, preserves the scars of still open wounds."

Talk to us about the importance of returning to this location, an area that is now a largely demolished school where abuse happened. Nearby is a cemetery where the remains of some children have since been found, because the pope did point out that him being there might reawaken the trauma for those there present today.


GALLAGHER: Yes. Look, Lynda, this is a very powerful speech, I think because Francis is saying that he -- is recognizing that even though this is something that the indigenous community has asked for him to participate and, he realizes, very sensitively, that his presence here may open winds. And his being here could make them uncomfortable.

And as he says, you know, we've heard that from some of the people here, they were talking about their traumas and saying that yes, they are happy the Pope is here. But it does create a sense of remembering wounds. But the Pope says that that needs to be done. We need to have this historical memory in order to heal.

So, there was the sensitivity to that and then there's the apology which, I think, there were several in the speech in which he says I'm sorry for the way many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the indigenous people. And again, asking forgiveness, he said, for evil. Calling it evil committed by so many Christians against the indigenous community. And that they cooperated in projects of cultural destruction, and enforced assimilation. So, really calling out an -- a specific term as possible, I think, as necessary than an apology to recognize exactly what has happened.

So, certainly, a powerful speech from the Pope. And I want to point out one thing he said in the beginning which is highly symbolic. He talked about the moccasins, if you remember, Lynda. And he said he's going to give them back at the end of this speech. And it is significant because those moccasins were brought, their children's moccasins, and one of the First Nations' leaders when they came to the Vatican in -- end of March, early April, brought those moccasins to the Pope and said, these were shoes representative of the children from residential schools who never returned home. And they were a symbol of a promise that the Pope would come here and would bring back those shoes.

And it's been a little story that we've been watching that the representatives from the First Nation said, you know, she hoped that those shoes would indeed come back. And it has been the first gesture that the Pope has done in this opening event of his six-day trip here in Canada. Again, I think that shows something of the sensibility of Pope Francis to being here (INAUDIBLE) with the people that he brings to them back, that is something that was very important to (INAUDIBLE) of the First Nations that had come to Vatican. Lynda.

KINKADE: Delia Gallagher for us, traveling with the Pope in Canada. Good to have you with us. Thanks very much.

For more on this, I want to bring in now Father Tom Reese who joins us now from -- via Skype. He's a Jesuit priest, a senior analyst at Religion News Service, and also, the author of "Inside the Vatican". Good to have you with us, Father.


KINKADE: So, we just had the Pope there apologizing for the abuse against indigenous children in these residential schools throughout Canada. Certainly, there's a lot weighing on this moment. Talk to us about the preparation that went into this moment because this certainly wasn't the first time the Pope has apologized for the abuse against indigenous children throughout Canada. But this is the first time he's done it in the country.

REESE: I take that what was really good about this apology was it showed that the Pope prepared for it by listening to the indigenous people themselves. I mean, typically, the church would come in and say, well, there were a few bad apples and, you know, we're sorry about this, but every -- most people were trying to do the right thing.

No, no. He didn't play that card. He came in and gave a comprehensive apology. Saying not only was this damaging to the kids, it was destroying the culture of a people that the church had been allied with colonial powers. And that the church needed to apologize for the sins of its children and the way that they treated the culture of these people, the people themselves, and the way in which this was such a devastating impact on the people that has, in this impact has continued. They are still suffering from the impact of the schools and what was done by the government and -- with the cooperation of the church.

So, he wanted to, first of all, listen to the indigenous people, and then give a comprehensive apology and not just, you know, pretend that this was a few bad apples that did some things wrong.

KINKADE: Yes. It certainly is some very, very powerful words there. And he spoke -- he said, I am deeply sorry. And he is the word, sorry, quite a few times throughout the speech. The Pope saying, sorry for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the indigenous people.

[13:35:00] He said I am sorry. I asked for forgiveness, in particular for the ways in which many manners of the church, and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference in projects of cultural destruction, forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time which culminated in the system of residential schools. Because this abuse went on for generations, for decades. And he did speak about the fact that he was aware that this day might bring up, might reawaken some of the trauma for survivors there listening to his speech. Talk to us about what sort of reconciliation, what sort of healing comes next?

REESE: Well, I think that -- again we have, as a church, have to turn to the indigenous people and ask them, what do you want to happen next? They came to Rome and talked to the Pope, told him about their pain, told them -- told him about their suffering. Gave him the history of what had happened and how this was still impacting the lives of indigenous peoples. Something that had gone on for generation and that these people are still suffering from today.

So, the next stage of this has to be, again, listening to the indigenous people. Respecting their cultures. I think it is noteworthy that during this visit, the indigenous culture of these people will be brought into the liturgy. So, in that the church recognizes that it is a spiritual culture, it is a sacred culture that deserves to be incorporated into the catholic liturgy, into the eucharist, into the way we worship. And that they were not going to impose on them a European approach to liturgy and worship.

This is how the church can show that today it respects indigenous cultures. And this, I think, is extremely important. But first and most importantly, we have to listen to the indigenous people and ask them, what do you want us to do next?

KINKADE: Yes. Certainly, a learning moment for the church as well. Father Thomas Reese, in Los Angeles, thank you so much for your insight and for joining us today.

REESE: Good to be with you.

KINKADE: And we are watching that trip. Pope Francis apologizing to the indigenous community in Canada for the years of abuse. You're watching CNN. I'm Lynda Kinkade. We're going to join "AMANPOUR" in progress. Stay with us.